Program Areas

Program Areas

Community of Democracy debates new UN Special Rapporteur in Warsaw

Opening session of the 38th Governing Council of the Community of Democracies in Warsaw, June 2024. Photo: DWB

On 11 June, representatives of the 30 member states of the Community of Democracies (CoD) convened for a meeting of their Governing Council in the Polish capital Warsaw, the location of the association’s headquarters. The gathering was dedicated “to addressing pressing issues of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law”, the community’s outgoing Secretary-General Thomas Garrett summarized. One of the sessions was dedicated to discussing the proposed new mandate of a UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy (UNRoD). 

Introducing the proposal, Democracy Without Borders’ Executive Director Andreas Bummel pointed out that “many pro-democracy groups and experts from across the world agree that the UN needs to do more to strengthen human rights and democracy. The appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy is seen as an important way to make this happen. The rapporteur would examine challenges and opportunities related to the realization of democratic governance.”

Session on a UN Special Rapporteur on Democracy with Andreas Bummel, Thomas Garrett, Allison Peters, and Enrique Arturo de Obarrio. Photo: CoD

He referred to a statement made by over 150 civil society groups, institutes and think tanks on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in December 2023 calling on the members of the UN’s Human Rights Council to set up this new mandate. Bummel emphasized that the mandate “can be based on principles the UN included in past and present resolutions, including the Universal Declaration, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the Vienna Declaration of the World Conference on Human Rights or later resolutions of the General Assembly, the Human Rights Commission and indeed the Human Rights Council.”

According to the representative of Democracy Without Borders, “there are elements of democratic governance that the UN has identified which together make up a definition of democracy that can be operationalized.” There was “no need to re-invent the wheel”, Bummel said.

The Chair of the International Steering Committee of the CoD Civil Society Pillar, Enrique Arturo de Obarrio, remarked that “the creation of a United Nations Special Rapporteur on Democracy would be a firm and wise step in the right direction”. Obarrio recalled the nineteen “core democratic principles” included in the Warsaw Declaration adopted by 106 states at the founding conference of the CoD in 2000. Based on the CoD’s commitment to this document, he recommended that the community should consider endorsing the initiative.

As the CoD Secretary-General’s summary points out, no decision-making on this topic was on the agenda and “a diverse range of views, questions, and suggestions were made by participants”. Many questions and comments centred around what the precise scope of a potential UNRoD mandate would be with a view of existing ones. One of the concerns voiced was the need to avoid possible duplication.

Democracy Without Borders presented a research brief in Warsaw to address this subject. “While existing UN special procedures focus on individual rights, civil liberties, and political participation, critical areas such as the integrity of democratic institutions, enforcement of checks and balances, and comprehensive oversight of electoral bodies remain underaddressed”, the document concludes.